Case History: California Drivers Advocates was engaged to a represent a client who was being accused of cheating during a written test while attempting to add an endorsement to his commercial driver license. Our 34 year old client is a fire fighter who has held a commercial driver license for many years. Although a commercial driver license is not a condition of his employment, possession of a valid Class “C” driver license with a Fire Fighters Endorsement is. The loss of his driving privilege would instantly mean the loss of his career.
For many months, our client had entertained the idea of adding a “doubles and triples” endorsement to his commercial driver license so he could pull a small trailer behind his toy-hauler. This was not an issue of necessity, but simply a matter of convenience.
One day in September 2016, our client entered the DMV Field Office in Santa Maria to register a vehicle. While there, he decided he would take the opportunity to challenge the written test for the doubles and triples endorsement. While he stood at the counter handling the registration issue, he was studying the Commercial Drivers Handbook.
When he had completed the registration matter, he was directed to turn around and enter the testing area. At no time, did the clerk at the counter tell him not to take the handbook into the testing area. There were no signs in the testing area or on the computers that warned our client to not possess study materials. Also, our client had just completed several highly intensive courses of instruction in the area of fire science that not only encouraged but demanded the “open book” during all examinations.
Entering the testing area, our client saw other people with material on their desks. He did not see any signs prohibiting the use of study material and had just completed his own studies in an open-book format. Based on this, he sat down at a computer monitor, opened the driver’s handbook and began testing. During the testing sequence, a DMV employee approached, and seized the driver’s handbook. He immediately accused our client of cheating and would not offer him an opportunity to explain himself.
Within two weeks, our client received a letter in the mail from the DMV announcing their intention to completely revoke his entire driving privilege for “Fraudulent Activity.”
DMV’s Position: The California DMV’s position was crystal clear. If a driver is involved in fraudulent activity while applying for a driver license or the renewal of an existing driver license, the DMV will act immediately to refuse or revoke the driving privilege.
It is the DMV’s position that a person who cheats during a written examination must not possess the requisite skills to drive and that it would be dangerous to allow an unqualified driver to operate a motor vehicle.
The California Vehicle Code determines that a person who commits an act of fraud shall not be issued a driver license for a minimum of one year.
Going into this, the DMV’s focus was to revoke our client’s entire driving privilege for a minimum of one year with no regard for the consequences to him or his family.
Our Defense: The result of a license revocation for our client would have been shear devastation. Our client had just purchased a new home, has wife and two sons and cares for his ailing Mother-in-Law. The possibility of no longer being able to provide for his family drove our client into despair.
California Drivers Advocates constructed a defense around the reality of who our client was and what had actually occurred. At the age of 34, our client had been safely driving fire apparatus in emergency situations for more than ten years. He had no moving violations on his record and the only accident on his record was not his fault. Clearly, he was a properly licensed commercial driver with many years of experience who took his job and safe driving quite seriously.
There were two critical elements in our client’s case:
- Was there a preponderance of evidence to demonstrate that our client had cheated while taking a written test?
- Did the DMV have the authority to suspend or revoke a pre-existing and valid driver license when the driver was simply testing to add an endorsement?
First of all, it was abundantly clear that our client had not been cheating. Although he was in possession of study material during the testing sequence, he genuinely had no idea he was doing anything wrong. His firm belief and his own recent experience was that it was perfectly acceptable to have an open book while testing. During the Fraudulent Activity Hearing, we
thoroughly cross-examined the DMV employee who had alleged the cheating. That employee acknowledged that there are no signs in the testing area which prohibit the use of study material. Furthermore, the employee testified that our client was not trying to conceal the handbook in any way. It was sitting on the desk in plain view; which is completely inconsistent with a person who knows they are doing something wrong.
Secondly, in the case of Wang v. Valverde the California Supreme Court ruled that the DMV had no authority to suspend or revoke a pre-existing Class “C” driver license when the driver was caught cheating while trying to upgrade to a Class “A” driver license. Such was the case with our client. His Commercial Class “A” Driver license was pre-existing and had been valid for more than 15 years. In testing to add a “doubles and triples” endorsement, he was not being tested for the original issuance of his Commercial License or to renew an expiring License.
While our client clearly made a poor choice in entering the testing area with his study materials in hand, he did not understand that he was violating the law. In fact, we presented several letters of reference from co-workers who all testified to his good nature and high levels of integrity. We presented course curriculum from his fire science classes that demonstrate their preference that all examinations be open-book. This helped to establish our client’s mind set.
Outcome: At the conclusion of the Fraudulent Activity Hearing, the DMV Hearing Officer took the matter under submission. For three weeks, we all sat on the edge of our seats waiting for the results. When we received the Hearing Officer’s written decision, he had ordered a “Set Aside” which not only restored our client to full driving privileges but also absolved him of wrong-doing. Clearly the DMV concluded that our client was not only qualified to drive, but that there was no criminal or fraudulent intent in the case.
When we telephoned our client with the good news, the relief was tremendous. An honest man who made a poor choice was cleared of wrong doing and was permitted to continue working in a career he loves.
Call CDA Today. Let Us Go to Work on Your Case. The DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates have been fighting and winning DMV administrative hearings for years. We excel at every type of administrative hearing handled by the DMV and have a history of winning. Call us and let us get you back on the road.
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